A majority of Americans believes Congress and not President Bush is most to blame for the budget impasse that has brought the federal government to a virtual halt, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Poll.
The survey found that 57 percent of those interviewed over the weekend said Congress was more to blame for the current budget stalemate, while 14 percent said Bush was more responsible. Another 16 percent said Bush and Congress were equally to blame, while the remainder said neither side in the dispute should be faulted or expressed no opinion.
Still, Bush's overall approval rating in the latest poll fell 10 percentage points to 65 percent in less than a month, an apparent sign that the American people are holding both the president and Congress accountable for the budget debacle.
Big majorities also disapproved of the way that Bush and Congress were handling the budget deficit, with six out of 10 persons questioned expressing disapproval of the way Bush as well as both congressional Republicans and Democrats were handling the deficit.
While neither Bush nor Congress escaped the public's apparent anger over the budget bottleneck, many Americans seemed to view the current legislative crisis as symptomatic of larger problems in Congress.
Barely half of those questioned -- 54 percent -- said they believed Congress was "able to deal with the big issues facing this country."
Among the 42 percent who disagreed, 9 out of 10 said Congress most often failed to act on problems like the deficit because members were "afraid to do unpopular things." Just 9 percent attributed congressional inaction on major national problems to the fact that the issues were so complex.
At the end of what many regard as the single worst week of his presidency, Bush's 65 percent approval rating is still among the highest ever recorded for any president in the postwar era at this stage of his presidency. It is identical to his standing with the public in July before the crisis in the Persian Gulf boosted support for Bush. And despite his recent drop from 75 percent approval, a majority of both parties expressed approval for the president's job performance.
A total of 756 randomly selected adults were interviewed nationally Oct. 5-7 for this survey. Margin of sampling error for the overall results was plus or minus 4 percentage points.